These Two Drivers Helped Jumpstart Walmart’s Fleet Efficiency

By Josh Tinker
December 16, 2015
Truck drivers, Lynn Halterman and Wyatt Jepsen, stand beside each other in front of mountains in the distance

Did you know the average fuel economy for an 18-wheeler is about 6 miles per gallon? Considering the fact that most loads travel thousands of miles across the country, a truck driver’s fuel costs can quickly add up.

But Lynn Halterman and Wyatt Jepsen aren’t your average truck drivers. Not only have they earned more than 3.5 million safe miles over their combined 38-year careers— they also developed a driver training and fuel-efficiency program that’s enabled the Walmart private fleet to boost its fuel economy to an industry-leading record of 7.25 miles per gallon. 

While 1.25 miles per gallon above the national average may not seem like a big difference, at Walmart the savings add up quickly. Fuel savings from our efforts to deliver more cases with fewer miles are amplified by our drivers’ commitment to improve their fuel economy. This fiscal year alone, the Walmart private fleet is expected to avoid emissions of nearly 650,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, and save nearly $1 billion compared to a 2005 baseline – contributing to a cleaner environment and lower prices for customers.

It all ties back to a commitment Walmart made in 2005: to double the efficiency of our private fleet by the end of 2015. Last month, we were excited to announce that we achieved this goal – a milestone we could not have reached without the help of those who drive Walmart trucks every day.

In 2008, Lynn and Wyatt made a huge difference toward that goal. Driving every day out of Grantsville, Utah, where diesel prices spiked at $4.64 per gallon that year, the two were approached by their manager about finding a way to increase each driver’s miles per gallon. After learning how to download engine information from their trucks, at the end of each month, the drivers pulled data from all 150 trucks in the Grantsville fleet such as idle time, gear downs, use of cruise control, and how the drivers were shifting. While the process took about a week each month and produced a stack of papers about two feet tall, what resulted was a breakthrough:  Drivers who did specific things, like skipping gears while shifting if it was safe to do so, used cruise control more often, and idled less, got more miles per gallon and better fuel efficiency than drivers who didn’t.

Lynn and Wyatt implemented those learnings, and now, seven years in, they’re continuing to better the program. They’ve partnered with the supplier who provided the onboard computers that each truck is equipped with to develop a program specific to Walmart’s needs, and established a better way to obtain this information. Instead of having to manually pull the info from each truck, it now travels through a wire, and back to the supplier through satellite. Lynn and Wyatt have also traveled to other regional operations centers to train fellow drivers.

With a job that means being on the road every day, there’s lots of time to think about one’s family, Lynn said, and how future generations can enjoy the beauty that rolls by outside the window. That’s why he saw finding a simple way to do better for the planet as very practical.

“We’re proud of our company’s achievements toward the environment and are glad to participate,” Lynn said. “Most drivers prefer no-nonsense things that have a good impact.”